“Les Misérables” Review
February 9, 2013 4 Comments
Les Misérables (2012)
Coming from the director of the Academy Award-winning film ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010), ‘Les Misérables’ is the latest film adaptation of the world-renowned musical. Starring such names as Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham-Carter, Amanda Seyfrield, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne, ‘Les Misérables’ is this year’s cinematographic achievement like no other, nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Adapting the world’s longest-running musical could not have been easy, and Tom Hooper, the director, did a remarkable job. In his adaptation, there are beautiful shots of 19th century France, realistic settings and fabulous costumes. From moving song coverages (‘I Dream a Dream’), using close camera work, to great scenes of the French Revolution, ‘Les Misérables’ provides an experience, which is one of a kind. The attention to detail in this film is ever present, and Hooper’s film comes across as emotional as any film in this genre can get, largely thanks to the brilliant cast, whose performances are simply outstanding.
‘Les Misérables’ closely mirrors the musical, and here lies one of its main achievements. Throughout the film, the actors “sing” their lines, instead of following the conventional dialogue sequences, and this brave attempt by the director to maintain the authenticity of the musical is to be applauded. This lyricism also attributes to the film being so powerful and emotional. Besides, taking into account that few main actors involved in the production are professional singers, and that the singing was actually performed live on camera to capture spontaneity, the effort becomes truly remarkable. The film production also managed to capture moments in the book which theatrical productions could never have done. For example, there is a scene in the film where Jan Valjean travels in a couch with Cosette as she is falling asleep. Jan Valjean’s lyrics reflect his new found hope in this little girl, as he took this responsibility on and now looks ahead and hopes for the better future for the two of them.
Hugh Jackman’s acting is truly terrific. Losing many pounds for his role of Jean Valjean, and going without water so as to his eyes appearing more “prisoner-like”, Jackman’s input and determination is ever felt throughout the film. His character becomes a man truly obsessed by his persecution, but, at the same time, determined to put his dark past behind him and start a new life with a little girl who is dependent on him. Anne Hathaway also gives an exceptional, emotionally-charged performance in her role of a poverty-stricken mother. Incidentally, Rebecca Hall (‘The Prestige’ (2006)) was also auditioned for the role of Fantine, and possibly would have made as realistic portrayal of the character. The true revelation here is Russell Crowe, who plays Javier, a ruthless policeman persecuting Jean Valjean, and also the very incarnation of law-and-order mentality. Crowe’s looks and his deep voice make his character a true likeness and an interesting study. Crowe has gone a long way to playing Javier, being unable to understand his character’s motivations at the beginning. His scenes become one of the most anticipated ones in the film. Given all this, it becomes unbelievable that Paul Bettany (‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)) was approached to play the role of Javier, as the two actors seem are so dissimilar. Echoing such complex characters and their interactions of today, as Severus Snape and Harry Potter in Harry Potter series, the most memorable scenes become the ones where Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) encounters Javier (Russell Crowe), and it is interesting to see their interaction, rather than just read about it in Hugo’s novel. Crowe’s performance is double powerful, because he manages to convince the audience in his character’s emotional turmoil and logic of his character’s actions, which are actually very hard to comprehend, let alone sympathise with.
The laughs in ‘Les Misérables’ are provided for by a curious couple, Thénardiers, who run a guesthouse and mistreat little Cosette in the film. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter play the couple, eliciting a number of laughs from the audience, as they skilfully empty the pockets of most of people they come in contact with. In terms of supporting cast, Aaron Tveit as Enjoras, a friend of Marius, Cosette’s lover, is a very good choice. By focusing on Eddie Redmayne as Marius and his singing talent, few people seem to notice Tveit, and yet he gives a really dignified performance, showing off his character commitment as well as the others. Samantha Barks was obviously a natural choice to play Eponine (she played the role in the theatrical production of the musical in 2010), and she also does so brilliantly.
Although camera work could have been better, and the film could have contained less of all those unnecessary close-ups, which are sometimes very destructing, it should never be forgotten that this film is based on a musical, and, therefore, naturally, different “rules” of movie-making apply to this film. The “theatrical” feel of the movie may mean that the film loses some of its usual cinema-goers, but, at the same, converting many others to theatre-going.
Touching and visually powerful, ‘Les Misérables’ may not be for everyone, but nor does it claim to be. Nevertheless, the film will not leave its audience emotionally uninvolved. As one commentator put it “if this stuff doesn’t get you going, your heart must be pumping cold porridge”, and this is very true, because it is easy to get swept away by ‘Les Misérables’: its ambition and its emotion. The film simply shines originality; it has powerful performances, masterfully executed songs and unforgettable scenery. 9/10